After speaking a week at camp, and asking a question of the day, every day, I asked the teenagers, “Why should a church or youth group want to have Paul Turner as a speaker?” Watch the video to see what kids said and then read the list below.
Regardless if you choose me as your camp speaker, you can hear what’s important to these teens in a camp speaker.
Use these qualities, in addition to things like doctrine, being a real life and online example of Christ, to choose a camp speaker your teens will respect and enjoy.
Here’s what the kids said,
He made the messages relative to my life
There are plenty eloquent speakers with nifty phrases but they can’t show how to take the scriptures from theory to practice. There are speakers who can drive the hype machine and work teens into a frenzy, but once kids leave camp, they can’t take their blown up faith and use it in any practical way.
Choose a speaker who’s fun and inspiring but choose a speaker who can give your teens the practical wisdom they need to live the Christian life.
He explained it in way I can understand
Many youth speakers are more worried about impressing students than actually making their message clear. Sometimes the real message of the scripture is lost in the humor or in all the pop culture references.
There are also very capable communicators who lose their audience in religious babble or the cleverness of their messages. Choose a speaker who uses practical illustrations to connect with students.
He showed me change is possible
Teenagers believe they’re stuck. They believe they can’t change. Some speakers believe truth is the only thing that matters, but the Apostle says, “Speak the truth in love” Love is also expressed through empathy. Students need the truth of the Gospel along with the empathy of the speaker.
Speakers can get caught up in the delivery of message and forget the purpose of the message, that it should change, in some way, those who hear it.
He helped me find purpose
Notice they did not say “I found my purpose”. This is not about students finding their vocation bu their value. Speakers are not in charge of solving student anxiety over what do with their lives, but rather offer students a peek into what God thinks of them.
Speakers who help a student discover or remind them the they have inherent value is worth the price of camp.
He gave me something to think about
Speakers can go two ways. First they can tell kids everything wrong with them and then say, “But here’s Jesus”. Speakers can also say everything is right with students and win their approval, but nothing is accomplished. Both are the wrong approach.
Should a speaker offer students the chance to accept Christ as their Savior? Absolutely.
It’s also important that speakers give students something to think about and allow the Holy Spirit to do the convincing versus the speaker trying to convince them. If the Holy Spirit convinces a student that they need Jesus, change happens. If the speaker convinces a student they need Jesus, students’ commitments are short lived.
He knows how I feel
I always say, “If you can remember your worst day in Middle School, you cn be a good youth pastor” Fortunately, or unfortunately, I do remember those days. I can still feel the bullies stare and the insecurity of smile existing.
This is just one way your speaker should connect with your students, but it may be the most important.
He says what he means
“Speak the truth in love” says the scriptures, but too many speakers get high on truth telling and forget the love. I do my best to be honest about what I’ve experienced as a Christian, including doubts and fears, but I also show that there is a way through.
Students want honesty. They want what’s real, minus the arrogance.
He let me know that God was love and that He was there for me
This is it in a nutshell. If students walk away from a camp/retreat experience with only one thing, they should know that God is for them, He loves them and He will not abandon them.
If Glorifying God is not the ultimate goal of your camp/retreat speaker, you should pass on them.
I hope these principles set you off to finding the best speaker for your students. If you think you might like to have me as your speaker, awesome!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you’re looking for in a camp speaker or, even better, if you’d like me to be your camp speaker.